Brandon Phillips doesn’t value on-base percentage, Joey Votto does. Does this matter?

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Interesting piece from Bob Nightengale of USA Today about Brandon Phillips and Joey Votto, who don’t exactly see eye-to-eye on the importance of on-base percentage. While Votto has taken criticism for valuing his on-base skills, he continues to defend his approach at the plate. Meanwhile, Phillips is doing the same thing, except from the opposite end of the spectrum. Check it out:

“I don’t do that MLB Network on-base percentage (stuff),” Phillips told USA TODAY Sports. “I think that’s messing up baseball. I think people now are just worried about getting paid, and worrying about on-base percentage, instead of just winning the game.

“That’s the new thing now. I feel like all of these stats and all of these geeks upstairs, they’re messing up baseball, they’re just changing the game. It’s all about on-base percentage. If you don’t get on base, then you suck. That’s basically what they’re saying. People don’t care about RBI or scoring runs, it’s all about getting on base.

“Why we changing the game after all of this time? If we all just took our walks, nobody would be scoring runs. Nobody would be driving anybody in or getting anybody over. How you going to play the game like that. People don’t look at doing the things the right way, and doing things to help your team win.

“I remember back in the day you hit .230, you suck. Nowadays, you hit .230, with a .400 on-base percentage, you’re one of the best players in the game. That’s amazing. I’ve never seen (stuff) like that. Times have changed. It’s totally different now.

Does this sound a little crazy? Of course. I got a little chuckle out of the line about MLB Network inventing on-base percentage. That was the first I’ve heard of it. Anyway, we don’t need to point out the obvious about on-base percentage and what it means for run production. Players don’t just reach first base on a walk and disappear into oblivion. If Phillips drives in 100 runs this season, Votto will be a big reason for it. It’s easy to gang up on what Phillips is saying here, as we have seen on Twitter throughout the evening. However, as our own Craig Calcaterra wrote about Jeff Samardzija exactly one month ago, does it really matter if a player understands or values sabermetrics?

Votto has embraced sabermetrics and that can have its advantages, but it’s not essential for a player to do so. There are analytics departments for that and coaching staffs to communicate information to players in an accessible way. We would have a problem here if Phillips said he purposely makes outs rather than draw a walk. He’s not saying that. However, he feels that he gets paid to swing the bat and drive in runs. That’s his approach and how he justifies his place in the lineup. It’s worked for him in the past, but his deficiencies are standing out a bit more now that he’s seemingly past his peak and moving into his mid-30s. And now he looks stubborn as he tries to defend something that has worked for him in the past. It’s probably frustrating. And from that prism, you can understand him getting extra defensive when he gets asked about on-base percentage, even if he’s wrong. It would be more alarming to hear this kind of talk from a general manager or front office executive as opposed to a player. Fortunately, Phillips is not in that position. He’s just a player with an opinion.

Justin Verlander laughed at after saying Astros were “technologically and analytically advanced”

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Justin Verlander was at the annual Baseball Writers Association of America banquet last night, on hand to accept the 2019 Cy Young Award. Normally such things are pretty routine events, but nothing is routine with the Houston Astros these days.

During his acceptance speech, Verlander made some comments about the Astros’ “technological and analytical advancements.” The comments were greeted by some laughter in the room as well as some groans. At least one person on hand claimed that other players present were visibly angry.

It’s hard to tell the context of it all without a full video — maybe Verlander meant it as a joke, maybe the reactions were more varied than is being described — but here’s how reporters on hand for it last night are describing it:

If it was a joke it was ill-timed, as not many around the game think the sign-stealing stuff is funny at the moment. Especially in light of the fact that, despite having several opportunities to do so, Astros players have failed to show any accountability for their cheating.

And yes, that includes former Astros Dallas Keuchel, who was praised for “apologizing” at a White Sox fan event on Friday, but whose “apology” was couched in a lot of deflection and excuse-making about how it was just something that was done at the time and about how technology was to blame. Keuchel also tried to minimize it, saying that the Astros didn’t do it all the time. Which is rich given that the most prominent video evidence of their trash can-banging scheme came from a blowout Astros win in a meaningless August game against a losing team. If they were doing it in that situation, please, do not tell me they weren’t doing it when games really mattered.

Anyway, I’d like to think Verlander was just trying to take a stab at a joke here, because Verlander is the wrong guy to be sending to be sending any kind of messages diminishing the cheating given that he has a pretty solid track record of holding other players’ feet to the fire when they get busted.

For example, here he was in 2018 after Robinson Canó got busted for PEDs:

Of course, consistency can be a problem for Verlander when his teammates are on the ones who are on the hook. Here was his response to Tigers infielder Jhonny Peralta being suspended in the wake of the Biogenesis scandal:

“Everybody makes mistakes. He’s my brother. We fight and bleed and sweat together on the baseball field. If my brother makes a mistake, especially if he owns up to it and serves his time, I don’t see how you can hold a grudge or anything like that. “It’s one thing to step up and be a man and own up to his mistake.”

Verlander, it should also be noted, was very outspoken about teams engaging in advanced sign-stealing schemes once upon a time. here he was in 2017, while still with the Tigers, talking about such things in a June 2017 interview with MLive.com.

“We don’t have somebody, but I’m sure teams have a person that can break down signals and codes and they’ll have the signs before you even get out there on the mound.  It’s not about gamesmanship anymore. It used to be, ‘Hey, if you can get my signs, good for you.’ In the past, if a guy on second (base) was able to decipher it on a few pitches, I guess that was kind of part of the game. I think it’s a different level now. It’s not good.”

Which makes me wonder how he felt when he landed on the Astros two months later and realized they had a sophisticated cheating operation underway. If the feelings were mixed, he was able to bury the part of them which had a problem with it, because he’s said jack about it since this all blew up in November. And, of course, has happily accepted the accolades and the hardware he he has received since joining Houston, some of which was no doubt acquired by virtue of a little extra, ill-gotten run support.

Anyway, wake me up when someone — anyone — associated with the Astros shows some genuine accountability about this.